Question: Does Florida’s homestead exemption apply to mobile homes in bankruptcy?
Short Answer: Yes
Long Answer: Yes, and it is still permissible to also claim the wildcard exemption in bankruptcy if the mobile home sits on a lot rented and not owned by the homeowner.
In Florida, a homeowner may exempt 100% of the value of their home from the bankruptcy estate, which means you can file a bankruptcy and nobody may touch your home (this is limited to 160 acres or 1/2 acre if within city limits). A few years ago that really meant something and I hope one day it will again. In addition to keeping all of your home’s value out of reach of creditors, Florida debtors in bankruptcy are also permitted to keep, among other things, 100% of retirement accounts, $1,000.00 in personal property and $1,000.00 in vehicle equity to the exclusion of their creditors. When you think about it, this really wasn’t fair to Florida debtors who did not have a homestead.
In July, 2007 the Florida Legislature created a $4,000.00 “wildcard” exemption to ease that pain. This flexible exemption can be used by a Florida debtor if they don’t have a homestead or owe back child support or alimony. The wildcard may not be applied to any form of real estate (rentals, commercial property, vacant lots, timeshare, burial plot, etc). The wildcard is very useful protecting property in cases where the value of assets is in excess of $1,000.00 like paid-for cars, expected tax refunds, etc. In the case of a married couple filing a joint petition, each spouse gets a set of exemptions and they are stacked in the bankruptcy petition.
That’s nice, Lori, but how does that apply to our mobile home conversation? Well, I’ll tell you. The Florida homestead exemption is both constitutional and statutory. The constitutional side of it applies only to real estate (mostly land and condos). The statutory portion supplements the constitutional portion and covers other forms of homes like mobile homes and boats. When the language for the wildcard exemption was written, it specifically says that it can be used only “…if the debtor does not claim or receive the benefits of a homestead exemption under s.4 Article X of the State Constitution…” so if there is no ownership of the real estate, the homestead is statutory only and the Florida debtor can exempt the full value of the mobile home and claim the wildcard. Who knew there would be a benefit to not owning your yard?